Planning the menu for JAN Franschhoek, the seasonal food and wine experience presented on La Motte, Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen was inspired by Franschhoek terroir. Yes, terroir is more than a wine term, it also refers to the characteristics of other products obtained from the geographical location where they are grown or produced.
There are many contributing factors to the style and taste of wine, but the one central ingredient, with the most influence, is the grape. And the grape reflects the terroir. According to Michael Fridjhon: “For punters of “authentic wine” the importance of site is paramount. Even though science cannot fully explain why one piece of dirt produces better fruit than another, there is enough empirical evidence to show that over time some vineyards yield quality wines which have a consistent smell and taste. In other words, provenance alone accounts for the uniqueness of the end product.” (Read more)
How important is terroir when it comes to food? Terroir not only has a strong quality association with wine, but also in food where there is a premium image for products from a certain origin, for example Parmigiano-Reggiano and Parma Ham from the Italian town of Parma. Terroir in food focus on local and seasonal produce. This is also where the protection of regional names comes in. We are familiar with the protection of regional drinks such as Champagne, Port, Tequila and India’s Darjeeling Tea to name a few, but there are many such protected foods as well. Think Karoo lamb, rooibos tea, Stilton cheese, Cornish pasty, Kobe beef, to name a few. More than brand protection and a guarantee of origin, quality and style, regional names also protect the story, tradition and history of a product and the way it is grown or manufactured.
I think it is important that rules protect traditional artisan methods, ingredients, recipes, the craft and the tradition. There might be many more affordable, similar tasting products available, but when enjoying the original, there is an appreciation for the skill and passion and history that goes with it.
When you cherish food and wine, meeting someone like Jan Hendrik is an inspiration. His love and appreciation for local ingredients and traditions are clear in the way he presents beautiful menus with innovation but also with respect. I have been working and living in the Franschhoek Valley for a long time, but seeing our home through the eyes of this Michelin-starred chef, has made me fall in love with the taste of Franschhoek terroir all over again.